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Spot Reduction Workouts Don’t Work: Here’s Why

Everyone’s fitness journey is different but one thing everyone will face is the tempting concept of spot reduction. Spot reduction promises weight loss in specific regions of the body through exercise alone but rarely delivers.

You may hear phrases like ‘booty filter’ or ‘shred those abs’ from a trainer promising a flat stomach by using pushups and crunches. But is spot reduction really possible with just exercise alone?

Why is Spot Reduction a popular concept?

Spot reduction is a concept that swiftly rose to popularity as it targets people going through a difficult phase in their fitness journey and promises a net positive result that is unattainable with exercise or diet alone.

People followed these extensive spot reduction workout plans because they advertised the results of targeted toning. However, there is a huge difference between targeted toning and spot reduction.

What exactly is Spot Reduction?

It essentially involves targeting one part of the body so that the fat is reduced, resulting in fat loss and toning of that particular part of the body1.

Performing exercise regimens like ‘ab workouts for a flat stomach’ will not remove fat from specific areas of your body. Although targeted exercises help tone specific muscles, your whole body benefits instead of just losing fat in that area.

a guy and his personal trainer trying out spot reduction workout

Spot reduction is not possible only with exercise, and here’s why:

Effects of targeted exercise on the body

Reducing fat in a specific area with exercise you target sounds good, but it isn’t possible. The purpose of targeted exercise plans is for the body to use fat cells in the target area as a source of energy, thus melting the fat.

However, that is not what actually happens. The body will take fat from the cells for energy in these situations. The fat is burned throughout the body rather than from specific areas2.

For example, you start to target the triceps to reduce arm fat with extensive arm workouts. However, the fat loss may come from any area, not just arms.

a girl doing a leg exercise on a mat

If these workouts are combined with full-body workouts, the body may get smaller overall. As you target the muscles, your arm strength may also improve. The overall upper body endurance may improve too, but that’s about it3. There is not going to be any magical decrease in arm fat, or anywhere else for that matter.

Effects of the caloric deficit on the body

As with exercise, reducing caloric intake results in the body utilizing fat cells for energy. A caloric deficit is the concept of burning more calories than we consume.

Reducing fat in a specific spot isn’t possible with caloric deficit or dieting either. Exercise causes fat to be burned throughout the body, not just in one area. There will be a net reduction in fat, but not spot reduction.

a healthy meal consist of eggs and vegetables

It is not possible to lose weight in one specific part of the body by working out extensively or dieting, but it is possible to tone a specific area. If you exercise your thighs, your lower body strength and tone increases, but your weight might remain the same.

What Does Research Say About Spot Reduction?

Multiple studies were conducted to conclusively decide on the efficiency of spot reduction of problematic areas 4,5,6. Scientific research has concluded that spot reduction with exercise alone does not work. There are alternatives that target the entire body and result in smaller body size.

a girl with her personal trainer doing weight lift

These alternatives include several exercise plans that focus on the entire body along with cardiovascular exercises. The main idea behind them is that they target the whole body and use large muscle groups. This results in a net decrease in fat content of the whole body and overall weight loss.

This builds up the muscles in the area, but the fat may not noticeably change.

For those who have stubborn pockets of fat they would love to reduce but are not comfortable with going under the knife, we might have the solution for you.

Non-Invasive Fat Removal Treatments

Fat removal by non-invasive methods has increased in popularity due to their effectiveness without the downtime and side effects. While there are a plethora of options in the market for non-invasive fat removal, here are 2 that can effectively remove that stubborn pocket of fat deposit that just won’t budge.


a woman going through a coolsculpting for her fat freezing or Cryolipolysis treatment and looking happy

Developed by Harvard University scientists, CoolSculpting is among the more popular methods for non-invasive fat removal. Known as the ‘fat-freezing’ technique, this FDA-approved fat removal method eliminates fat without invasive surgeries.

Cooling applicators are placed on the targeted areas of the body. The fat cells in the targeted area are destroyed by apoptosis (cell death) under temperatures ranging from -11°C to -13°C.

After that, the body naturally eliminates the broken-down fat cells. Cryolipolysis has been studied for its efficacy, and results proved it to be an effective fat reduction technique7.


SculpSure is another popular non-invasive fat removal treatment that uses laser lipolysis to target fat cells. It was also the first laser lipolysis treatment to receive FDA approval. It works to break down fat cells without disrupting the skin surface.

Under temperatures ranging from 45°C to 47°C, the constant heat-induced causes the fat cells to go through apoptosis (cell death). Through the lymphatic system, the body excretes the broken down fat cells as waste.


When beginning a fat loss plan, it is crucial to focus on what is attainable and what isn’t. Even though exercising alone cannot permanently reduce fat only in a specific region of the body, a healthy and active lifestyle is still key to staying fit and feeling good.

When no amount of diet and exercise can phase a stubborn pocket of fat, non-invasive fat removal treatments might be the extra help you need to finally bid farewell to stubborn areas.